Finding the right family tree builder for your genealogical needs can be tricky. If all you want is the core functionality of being able to build your tree, navigate it and record information about each ancestor, then you’re spoilt for choice, even when shopping in the freeware market.

On the surface, XY Family Tree looks and acts a lot like other basic family history programs, but behind its pleasant, relatively user-friendly interface lies some clever and unique features. You will pay a price for these features in the complete lack of support for recording facts/events about the people in your tree, but there’s a workaround that works reasonably well.

Unique features include a clever Kinship navigation tool that allows you to browse your tree by relationship – click this and you can see a person’s aunts and uncles, or even distant cousins simply by clicking the appropriate button to select from a list.

Another interesting note is that XY Family Tree doesn’t support families as such: everything is individual-centric, so you can’t record shared data like marriages. Despite this, the comprehensive view of a person’s immediate relationships as found on the Family tab means you won’t miss it.

We also like the use of Associates, which allows you to record specific relationships in a person’s life along with details about it. You could record a close connection between nephew and aunt, for example, but you can also record relationships with non-family members too.

We mentioned that you can’t record events or facts about a person – XY Family Tree offers two alternatives. The first is a rather basic Notes tab with three fields for recording both public and private information, while the second is to simply record these facts via their source material – switch to the Links tab and you can add links to any files you like, from photos and documents to audio clips or Word documents. You then record information about these, ensuring any fact you do record is immediately backed up.

Less impressive tools are the Map tab, which relies on you inputting a direct line to an online map in the Notes tab, and the ability to share your tree online via a rather functional, unattractive web site. You’ll need to donate for this feature (donating also gives you more options when printing too). Nevertheless, XY Family Tree has enough to make it worth testing with a GEDCOM copy of your existing research file.

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It may not be as feature-packed as the paid-for heavyweights, but XY Family Tree is well worth checking out thanks to a number of interesting and unique features.